Friday, August 28, 2015

Interview With a Catholic Wedding Photographer: Kate Capato of Visual Grace

About a week ago, I was left awestruck by this article from the Theology of the Body Institute, calling us out of ourselves (and away from our phones!) to walk headlong into beauty, "not as a decorative diversion but an essential need."  A Catholic wedding, with its invitation to grace and beauty through all of our senses, is a profoundly powerful thing.  My friend Jiza and I have been talking about how Catholic wedding vendors, particularly photographers, can capture your Mass, the sacraments, and the chapel in a way others might not.  And, I love the added community aspect of supporting our brothers and sisters as they cultivate their talent.


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That being said, I am so excited to introduce Kate Capato of Visual Grace to you today!  She and I have both worked for the same organization, though not at the same time, and have a handful of friends in common though we haven't met face to face.  Truly, everything about Kate's work exudes authenticity and the Theology of the Body; this girl deeply, deeply pursues and understands our unity of body and soul and the heart's ache for beauty.  Through painting, dance, and photography, she strives, through Visual Grace, to "draw the viewer in to ponder what it means to be human."  Truly, I'm amazed and am so grateful for her insights.  Without further ado...

Your business, Visual Grace, has such an amazingly unique mission: beyond just expressing an image on camera or on a canvas, you strive to capture the good, true, and beautiful in your work, and for that beauty to point us to God and reveal our human nature.  First, how did you even come up with something so great like that?  Second, how does that mission come specifically into play when you shoot engagements and weddings?
As an artist, I have been inspired by JP2, particularly his studies known as The Theology of The Body. As I continue in the work of mission and the arts, I see how much beauty can transform hearts. I also see how much we, as a culture, lack in being able to see and receive beauty. My goal became to reveal authentic beauty, which includes revealing what is true and what is good. They all go hand in hand. Visually, this plays out by using what is authentic. In simple ways this plays out in a photo by using natural lighting as much as possible and really sticking to revealing the personality of the couples. 

Do you work exclusively with Catholic couples, families, and individuals in your business? Regardless, what, to you, sets a Catholic wedding apart?

While many of my clients are Catholic, I do not work exclusively with Catholic couples. Catholic weddings, of couples who truly understand what they are doing in committing their lives to one another and becoming one, have such a grace about them. You can see it in their eyes. They stand before one another as a gift to behold. The Ceremony is such an important part to them. While their receptions are also gorgeous, they would never want the Ceremony to be something to move quickly through. They get that the sacrament is the moment of great grace. 


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Brides have so much access to visual inspiration when planning their weddings, often before they even meet their vendors.  As a photographer, have you noticed pros and cons to this?
I don't mind this so far. Most couples I have dealt with trust me and, again, are more focused on the joy of the sacrament then having everything specific. Sometimes, I encourage them to look up things they would like to have captured. This helps them visualize for themselves how they would like to reflect back on the day. They have so much to think about so to be honest, I think it has been helpful. 


What's the most helpful thing a couple can do for you as a photographer before and during their wedding day?

Strive to find places with good lighting. Where they get ready, the church, the reception, all of it may be beautiful, but natural lighting is what makes a photo fabulous. Furthermore, account for enough time as possible to allow for the photographer to get the best photos of the couples and bridal party (hopefully outside). 


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I'd love to hear stories from some of the weddings you've shot!  Are there any particularly profound moments that stand out to you?  Any funny or otherwise memorable ones? 
For most of a wedding day, I am running around with the camera in front of my face. I get to see a variety of structured days. You get to learn about each couple and what is important to them. I will be shooting a wedding in a few weeks that is a full day with different Masses throughout the day, and the reception is at this really cool camp. I think it will be elegant but really down to earth.  

Recently I flew to Canada to shoot a wedding. I forgot that I would have to figure out all the details in regards to currency and phone differences because it's not AMERICA. Anyway, getting off the plane was like playing Marco Polo to find my ride because I didn't have phone service!


You work for The Culture Project, an organization committed to inspiring and upholding virtue, chastity, human dignity, and a life fully lived through a relationship with Christ.  Does this work influence your art, and vice versa?

Totally. With The Culture Project, I am constantly being formed and speaking on the topics of what is true, good, and beautiful. That being said, I am always learning more about what it means to love and how to share that with others. Love is so gracious and generous, much different then what our society portrays. Society points us to a passionate lust. They make lust a goal, when in all it is actually use. Our desires and passions are not bad; however, there is a much deeper peace and joy in knowing that authentic love thinks of what one can give verses what one will get. The union of two hearts and the deep joy that comes from that is so different from focusing only on the pleasure the other can give you. 


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Anything else you'd like to share?  
I am also a dancer and a painter. I really believe that these two art forms greatly influence my photographs, not only the way I take them but how they turn out. I am constantly thinking about composition and how the bodies are facing etc. Really, all the arts go hand in hand. 


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Thank you so, so much, Kate!  Visit Kate's website here to drink in her beautiful portfolio, and check out her latest work (and get in touch if you're looking for a photographer!) on Facebook.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Spirit Rejoices: Theology of the Body-Inspired Wedding Songs

{sweet sounds for your Mass and reception}

A question worth pondering (one I'm still figuring out): just how personal should your first dance song be?  Should you take an opportunity to share your faith or just stick to a conventional love song?

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Brooke and I chatted over coffee about a month ago about how a bride and groom are, in a way, responsible for their guests in the way they plan their Mass and reception.  Although, obviously, not every aspect of your reception requires heavy-handed theological discourse (I'd argue, actually, that nothing should be heavy-handed so much as simply done with love, truth, and invitation), the choices made regarding things like alcohol and music can have an effect on your guests' behavior and the way they remember the day.  As first dances go, there's a natural desire to choose a song that's meaningful or sentimental to you as a couple, yet at the same time, there is an awareness that the song you pick will send a message to everyone who's there watching and listening.  Or is that just over analytical me?

Maybe it's my lifelong reading habit or my poetical husband, but more so than sound, mood, or any other aspect, lyrics are what almost always draw me most powerfully into a song.  Something about the precision of capturing a certain emotion or experience with beautiful language matters a lot to me, and Andrew and I wanted to reflect that in our first dance song.  Unfortunately, we chickened out on our first choice (too intimate) and second (too long) and settled on this, which you can read more about here.

Looking back, I sometimes wish we had been bold enough to choose a song more personal and reflective of our spirituality.  I have an entire playlist of secular songs I constantly listen to that, in my opinion at least, cry out lyrically of the Theology of the Body--songs that speak to the longing of our hearts for something more than this life, the glimpse of heaven pure, sacrificial love affords us, the constant battle to allow love to prevail over lust and selfishness, and the perfecting love of the Father, who rejoices simply in the fact that we exist.  It's a tall order, cramming all that into one song, but if you're on the hunt for a TOB-inspired first dance, I offer you these.

What do you think about loving responsibility and evangelization through your Mass and reception?  Did any of your favorites make this list, and which ones did I leave off?  Would you choose one, or a similarly-minded song, for your first dance?

P.S.  Did you catch my book title reveal yesterday?  I'll be announcing it on the blog next week, but you can catch it right now, ahead of time, on Facebook and Instagram.  Follow along and share it with a bride-to-be!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Major Book Announcement….


...But You Won't Find It Here First.

Friends, I'm so excited to tell you that my wedding planning book, now almost 3 years in the making, now has an official title!  I absolutely love it and can't wait to share it with you.

I'll be announcing my book title here on the blog in about 2 weeks, on September 1.  BUT!  I'll be sharing it a week early on Facebook and Instagram, next Monday, August 24.  Follow along here and here for the sneak peek!

While I of course want this longtime project to do well, the most important thing to me is that it guides, inspires, and enlightens…hopefully that's not asking for too much.  So, in these months leading up to the book's release, I would so deeply appreciate your prayers for me and for the brides and couples who will eventually read my words.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Rite Resources: My Favorite Free Design Resources for Wedding Invitations

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Natalie Franke Photography
Ever given any thought to designing your own wedding invites? Andrew's and my wedding plans were blessed with considerable financial help from our parents.  I felt so thankful, yet vaguely guilty, so I tried to express our thanks by finding ways to cut costs wherever we could.  I love design and can fake my way through Microsoft Publisher pretty well, so I wanted to try my hand at creating our own invitations, programs, and stationary, but I knew I wanted something with a little more flair than your standard ivory paper and black script.

Side note: this was about 6 months before Pinterest was around--much to my benefit, I think, if only for the reason that I probably would've gone full-on wedding cray cray if I'd had access to that much inspiration and that amount of bridal stuff at that time in my life.  Good for other peeps, and I love looking at wedding things online still, but I know myself too well…it would've complicated, rather than simplified things for me; I'm sure of it!

Anyway, with just archaic Google to help me, it took a little time to scour the internet for pretty design resources I could use for our stationary, and after finding some I truly love, I want to share them with you.  Here are some of the sites I used before my wedding, as well as a few others I've stumbled onto since then:

For fonts:
DaFont.com: This site is great as a collection of varied, free, simple to download fonts that are divided by categories, like handwritten styles, brush scripts, and calligraphy.  Definitely check out the Dingbats and Holiday sections for "fonts" that read as images, like decorative flourishes, hearts, and flowers--truthfully, there are some pretty cheesy ones to wade through, but you can find some sophisticated designs, too, if you're willing to click around.  Even four years after my initial invitation project, I use this site all the time to help me create blog graphics.  A few faves:

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Lost Type Co-Op: Seriously gorgeous type, created by independent designers, that has a wonderfully professional look.  Free downloads are permitted, or you can make a donation when you download a font, and 100% of your donation goes to the designer.  If you're nerdy about this stuff like me, Lost Type sends out a fascinating e-newsletter you can subscribe to when you download.  Everything really does look beautiful, but I'm particularly partial to these:

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For images, borders, and other design elements:
We Lived Happily Ever After: Elegant wreaths, Parisian flowers, rustic antlers…whatever theme you're going for, I feel like there's a good chance you'll find something to fit from Hannah's amazing collection of images, most of them hand-drawn.  It's simple to download her collections, and she even offers this handy tutorial on how to change the graphics' colors.  Some inspiration:

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For backgrounds:
Design Love Fest: While I'm betting you don't want your wedding invitations to say something like "Get It Girl," this site does have a huge collection of backgrounds you can download for your phone or desktop, ones I'm betting would also look mighty fine as a backdrop for your invitations.  There are plenty of florals, geometric shapes, and watercolors like these to browse through (images are linked to the download pages):

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Pattern Cooler: I'm ready to admit that some of the designs here are straight-up gaudy.  But the concept of customizing practically any design you can imagine (stripes, circles, Greek keys…) with any colors you like is unbeatable.  A sampling:

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If you like the idea of free, print-your-own invites but would rather leave the design up to someone else:
Wedding Chicks: Type in a search for "free printable wedding invitations" and a lot of clunky designs with few customization options pop up.  These are different; I think they're truly pretty, and what's more, the site offers a great collection of design-your-own monograms you can use as a starting point for your own designs, as well as signs and other printables to use at your ceremony and reception.

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I just recently learned about this beautiful couple who did ministry together with St. Paul!
One thing!  Be sure, when you're getting ready to print your invites and other materials, that you've saved them as a PDF.  If you try and print straight from a Microsoft program like Word or Publisher, it will usually try to convert downloaded fonts into a Windows-friendly version, and any pretty calligraphy or block type will show up on the screen but not on the final, printed version.  PDFs also just simplify things if you're taking your documents to a print shop or a place like Staples, because the formatting can't change depending on what operating system you're using.

What do you think?  Have you thought about going DIY for your wedding paper?  Is there a free design resource you've used and loved that I left off of the list?  Share away.


More design, DIY, and template stuff from this here blog:
Mass Program Templates  |  Design-Your-Own Puzzles for guests  |  A post from the early days on the more technical aspects of invitation design  |  Erika's pretty DIY invitations  |  Printable Calling Cards to share your new married address  |  Printable Prayer Cards


Friday, August 14, 2015

Why I'm Okay With Simplicity.

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A while ago, a friend and I were talking about date nights.  Like me, she's a mama and has been married for a while, with a husband whose job involves irregular hours.  "It's so hard to think of stuff to do for dates," she said, and went on to describe their efforts to make a meal together after their kids were in bed, to set aside time to watch a movie, or to sit and pray.  As she talked, I found myself thinking, "Oh, that's date night?  That's just what Andrew and I do a lot of nights."

The point is, every relationship is different, and one person's special occasion is another's typical evening.  More and more lately, I've been realizing how content Andrew and I are with simplicity.  We celebrated our 4 year wedding anniversary last month and, as I often do around times like his birthday or our wedding day, I found myself scrambling to think of a creative gift and out-of-the-ordinary date, a feeling that's heightened after becoming parents since our opportunities for dates are more limited these days.

In my eagerness, I tend to ignore or forget the fact that my husband isn't into all the bells and whistles.  Impossible as it may sound, the man just does not like getting gifts.  And, even without the threat of a single Instagram post in sight, he sometimes struggles to feel at ease with things that, on the surface, seem more like something fun a couple should do, rather than what they actually want to do.  I have to admit, I used to think this was boring of him, or purely for the sake of making a statement against the falseness that can sometimes accompany social media.  But truly, the more time we spend together, the more I find our once-different viewpoints becoming more similar in certain areas, and this is one of them--not because Andrew has forced his opinions on me, but because joy is a fruit of putting another before yourself.  It's taken me so long, and I still struggle--gift giving is one of my love languages, and I really do love picking things out for him!--but now it actually makes me happy to not give my husband extravagant presents or plan elaborate nights out, and he finds happiness in the occasions where we do go out for something fancier, knowing that I enjoy it.

"Authentic" is a word that gets tossed around often in the name of craft beers and Facebook fasts and artisanal donuts or whatever.  And yet it does carry real weight, I think, when it comes to truth and self-knowledge.  Knowing yourself is a way of understanding truth, because God, who is truth itself, reveals to you who you are, the more you come to know Him.  

In the same way, I feel like the more I know and love Andrew, the more I know myself.  Our lives are so shared that it doesn't feel possible to know one of us better without knowing the other.  I am incredibly blessed by a man so intentional, critical, and discerning in his choices, all made in the name of virtue and a deeper closeness to God, and so comfortable and un-self-conscious in them.  Like in the fact that for our anniversary, we got burritos at Baja Fresh and then hung out at home.  Andrew wrote a beautiful poem that made me cry.  I love his quiet creativity and I loved the entire day.  There are definitely times when I wish we took advantage of more photo ops for our future selves (my husband is also not the biggest fan of my ideas for impromptu photo shoots!), or that we documented some of the recipes we've tried or places we've gone, but on the whole, this is our simple, non-Pinteresty, kept-to-ourselves life, and it feels peaceful and perfectly suited to us.  Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote, "love alone is credible," and he was right.

Thoughts? Are you a lover of the fancy date night or more suited to the simple?  Even though more planned out, photogenic romance isn't really our style, I still love hearing about other couples' sweet and creative gestures!



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Something New: Splurges For Your Wedding Day and After

Have you seen the Pinterest images and heard the stories about brides who buy a pair of Jimmy Choos or something to wear with their wedding gown?  Me too.  That's not what this post is about.  Well, not entirely.

I do really like the idea of treating yourself to a little something special for your bridal look, but since most of us don't have a ton of disposable income while dealing with other wedding expenses, let alone $600 for a pair of shoes, I think it makes financial sense to splurge (moderately!) instead on an item that's not relegated just to a formal, once-in-a-lifetime occasion.  You get something versatile that also has the potential to be a new favorite and reminder of your wedding.  Personally, I like the classics:

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Twisted pearl necklace, J. Crew.  Signet ring (for your new initials, and to pass on one day!), Sarah Chloe.  Chandeliers, Kate Spade.  NARS The Multiple & Dolce & Gabbana The One, Sephora.  Deborah Lippmann nail color in Chantilly Lace, Nordstrom.  Ankle-strap sandals, Vince Camuto.  Original wellies (for inevitable outdoor photos), Hunter.  Navajo sandals, Jack Rogers.

What do you think?  Are you planning to get something new to wear both on and after your big day?  What's the best investment piece you've ever gotten?  I'd love to hear the stories behind your special pieces!


Friday, August 7, 2015

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 34

{story of a soul, condensed}

Unknown to them until now, if they're reading, Emily and Elise inspired this post with their roundups of things they're lately immersed in, pondering, and in love with.  Inspired, I'm shamelessly bandwagoning and linking up with Kelly.


{1} Creating: It's around this time of year that this eager beav starts making lists of what to give for Christmas.  I mean even the store-bought stuff, not just the homemade things that take longer.  I just really like picking out presents.  Anyway, since I'll have a one-month-old this Christmas, I figured I'd enjoy this chance to get a head head start on holiday knitting projects.  I'll never tell what this will be or who it's for.  Well, until they get it at Christmas.  I should be using Andrew's and my when-we-have-time Netflixing to keep at it, but instead I'm content to just cuddle while...

{2} Watching: The Office.  It will never not be my favorite comedy.  I loved the show while it was still on TV, but for some reason (probably college and its unpredictability) never actually watched it on TV--always DVDs or online.  It's our first time watching the last two seasons, which I'm nervous about because everyone said the show falls apart after Steve Carell's departure…maybe our standards are lower than we thought, but so far so funny.  Fingers crossed.  Or maybe it's not that bad?  Someone reassure me?!

{3} Testing the waters: Even though I've been wearing makeup since my mom first let me in 8th grade, I'm not sure I'd say I actually know how to use it well (the proof's in the sparkly lipgloss of my high school years and my eternal failure to ever, ever keep mascara on my lashes where it belongs), beyond the basics of knowing how to line my eyes and put on blush and chapstick.  I stumbled onto this via Pinterest and mentioned to my sister my fear-yet-curiosity about venturing into very, very subtle contouring.  She let me borrow this little number and to my surprise, my skin didn't look too orange, too fake, too Kardashian, or anything, just…like my skin.  Or my skin if it were naturally a little smoother and brighter.  I like.

{4} Listening: Jon Foreman, every single time I open up Spotify.  Since college, I've actually preferred his solo music to his recordings with Switchfoot, and his new EP, Sunlight, is so poetic and beautiful.  Because I love the Theology of the Body so much, I tend to see it everywhere and attribute everything artistic to it, even if I'm aware the artist was unaware (to me it's just proof that the human heart is full of universal longings!).  But honestly, it seems impossible not to see TOB in lyrics like "the feeling comes to me again / the feeling to give up and to give in / the feeling that I've already lost the war / but a pure heart is worth waiting for" and "we're not destined for this pain / we hide ourselves and put the fig leaves on / but a mask can never cover up this shame."  So, so, so so beautiful.

Clutching the belly band for dear life.
{5} Wearing: I am desperately trying to make my regular shorts last the summer with the help of a belly band, but mercy, mercy, I'm not sure I'm going to make it.  I'm fairly certain this pregnancy's 25-week belly looks more like last time's 30-weeks-or-more belly!  I also realized that since I'm not working now like I was during Aaron's pregnancy, the shorts I wear to chase a toddler are a lot less forgiving, comfort-wise, than the skirts and dresses I was wearing to the office most days two years ago.  But it's not so bad; it's as amazing as I remember, in fact.  I've loved finally getting to share our little girl's kicks with Andrew, who can feel her from the outside now!  And pants are for chumps.  Or for being seen in public only.

{6} Wishing for: It's not maternity friendly, and even less bank account-friendly, a.k.a. between those two things it'll never be mine, but is this maxi not one of the prettiest skirts you've ever seen?  I love the silhouette, the wide waistband, and love, love, love the leaf print.  The rest of the pieces in this collection are gorgeous, too.  A pregnant girl on a budget can dream.

{7} Praying: We spent about 14 hours' worth of last Saturday and Sunday afternoons laying in bed with Aaron as he slept and cried his way through the third ear infection of his little life.  He's on the mend this week, and I feel guilty that I secretly enjoy the sick snuggles, since they come at the expense of his comfort!  More and more, I'm aware that having one baby who can play and do some things indecently, who sleeps well, and who we more or less have figured out (oh my pride…it's definitely less, but I like to think I am much calmer and more knowledgeable than when he was first born) has given us such a sacred time to enjoy him solo before his sister arrives in a few months, and also a pretty easy time.  My prayer lately has been that I can embrace what's sure to be far less free time and complete abandonment of a schedule for a while when the time comes for our family to adjust to two babies.  Now that Aaron's more capable of doing things on his own when I need a few minutes to get a chore finished or to make a phone call, I struggle at times to be present with him when I don't need to be doing anything besides talking to him or playing with him.  Not in a helicopter way, just in a quality time way.  Joy flows from sacrifice and service, and I want my children to know that through my example.

Anything exciting going on this weekend?  Mine's got an outdoor Zumba class and my niece's third birthday on the calendar.  Have a wonderful one.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pre-Wedding Skincare Faves, or How I Brought My Skin Back From Proactiv Purgatory

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat.  You are beautiful.  Truly and entirely, you are.

In my opinion, it's not wrong to want to radiate your natural, God-given beauty to the maximum on your wedding day.  For me, having my complexion look nice has always been the biggest beauty-related confidence booster; when my skin is clear, I'm more content to wear simple makeup and not worry as much about my hair.  Unfortunately, my skin and I have been at war, with brief periods of good will, since high school, but I feel like I've finally been able to make peace with it in the last year or so.
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A few years ago, I went on a crunchy bender  and decided to try this theologically dubious soap on my face.  To my surprise, it completely cleared up a few stubborn, perpetual breakouts I'd had in the same area for years.  Convinced it had fallen from heaven, I promptly ditched the Proactiv Solution I had been using for about 9 years.

Biiiiig mistake.  After a gleeful week spent without a single blemish, my face staged an all-out rebellion.  Turns out, Proactiv keeps your skin clear by suppressing all the, well, crap that causes acne, rather than treating the root cause and eliminating it (Hmmm.  Anyone up for debating whether it's reasonable to extend the logic of contraceptives and fertility drugs to the logic of acne products?).  For the next two years as my pores purged out all the stuff the chemicals had been keeping beneath the surface, I had horribly painful, unattractive cystic acne that coincided with the start of my first corporate job, with being a bridesmaid (a.k.a. lots of photographic evidence), and, you know, with having to go out in public.  And dang if I didn't cry about it on a multiple-times-per-week basis.  I knew, and believed, my husband and God the Father saw beauty in me, but when I didn't see it on the outside, I struggled so, so much to acknowledge it on the inside and constantly compared myself to other women.  I actually prayed for clear skin!  Ridiculous?  Still not sure, given how completely demoralized I felt.

I spent hours reading product reviews and reading about holistic cures for breakouts.  I decided in my desperation that I was willing to make friends with non-crunchy chemicals if they would help things along.  Three years later, after lots of trial to make up for my error, these products and methods helped the most.  For me, they worked well enough that my skin has calmed wayyy down and no longer breaks out at all (I suspect I outgrew my teenage acne long before I actually stopped using the Proactiv), and the scarring left by that two-year purge is almost entirely faded.  I sincerely hope you don't find yourself in a skin sitch as dire as mine, but if you're trying to even out and/or clear up your complexion before your big day, these all get my thumbs up:

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1.  2.  3.  4.  5.  6.
Oil Cleansing: My friend got really into making her own skincare and cleaning products a while back, and she and I had a 20-emails and counting thread about her great results from this method of washing your face.  The idea is that oil dissolves oil, and that by mixing oils in a way that suits your skin type, massaging them on your face, and then wiping it away with hot water, your skin gets cleaner and clearer than it could with soap.  Honestly, I was terrified after years of oil-is-the-enemy acne products, but after obsessively reading this article down to the last comment, I decided to try it using this and this. The verdict: very soothing, a little too time consuming for me to make it a long-term habit (it involved adding a tea kettle to my bedtime routine!), and moderately, if not wildly, successful.  I think for me, it jump-started some of the healing from my scarring, which I definitely chalked up as a victory.

Lerosett Regenerative Healing Serum: Yes, this was way pricier than the products I normally buyo  But again, desperation, hysterical crying, and on a more reasonable level, I hoped if it worked, I'd only need to buy it once, which turned out to be true.  I heard about this serum by word of mouth and ended up really liking it; it was gentle, felt nice, and didn't have too many frowned-upon ingredients.  Best of all, it's specifically made for treating scarring, and it did a really good number on  mine.  I used it only at night to help it last, and the bottle kept for a little over a year.

Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant: Grace said this stuff is awesome, and it is.  When the Lerosett ran out, I gave this a whirl after reading her recommendation since the company has super frequent sales and figured it would be a cheaper alternative.  I'm on my second bottle right now and it really has helped even everything out and heal the last bit of scarring and dark spots I have left over.  I save this one for nighttime, too, to help it last, and have found that just pouring a few drops into my hand, instead of onto a cotton ball, seems to stretch it even further.

Sunscreen: In all my reading I found out sun exposure is not a friend of acne scars and hyperpigmentation.  Although, given what everyone says, sun exposure is not supposed to be a friend at all?  Whatever; I know I'm supposed to wear sunscreen regardless, but I like walking with Aaron to the library and the playground and when I wear it I don't obsess over my face and what's going to happen to it.  I've been using this Neutrogena one for a long time, but recently saw this, so I'm sort of in the market for a new one.  Any recommendations?

Fish oil and Green Tea: A legit-to-me school of thought proposes that acne is a visible result of inflammation in the body, so I tried cutting out sugar for a while, followed by keeping my intake down, and loading up on the fish oil and tea.  A nice side effect of the fish oil was fewer issues with dry skin and chapped lips, and the tea helped a lot with sugar cravings.  Obviously, it was unsweetened tea; I like the taste of it plain, but if you're not a fan of what Andrew describes as drinking grass, this one has a nice fruitiness.

Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion: I started using Mario products about two years ago, and maybe it's my being consistent with an actual routine or maybe their customized approach to skincare really is an effective one (you can take a quiz on their website, then see products they recommend specifically for your skin type and issues), but for just a basic cleanser and toner, instead of the special, crying-induced purchases, they're the best.  The company also makes a famous pink blemish lotion that you dab on before bed, but when I sampled it (that's another thing--you can pick out samples when you order online!), I didn't have much luck besides getting pink spots on my pillow.  I like this one a lot more; it's a powder suspended in liquid that you shake and just lightly apply over breakouts.  For my skin, it really does make a difference overnight and isn't too drying.

Any favorites of yours that I missed?  I'm pretty happy with my skin right now and probably shouldn't stray too far from what I've found to work, but I'm kind of an embarrassingly pliable consumer who gets easily curious about new things out there.

More importantly, have any of you had a similar acne product detox experience?  On the whole, it feels good not to be dependent on high levels of chemicals to keep my skin clear anymore, but if I could change anything, I definitely wouldn't have quit the Proactiv cold turkey.  If you're considering something similar, maybe doing it well in advance of your wedding is the best timing, along with slowly using less and less of the products to get your skin used to it?  I feel like going through the wringer with this has left me without any trace of shyness when it comes to talking about it, so I'd be glad to answer any questions if you're going through a similar process!








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